Best Place to See an Authentic Pachinko Machine

Geisha A Go Go

Geisha A Go Go
Josh Chesler
Walking into Scottsdale's Geisha A Go Go, one is overwhelmed with sights and smells. Sashimi-grade tuna puts salivary glands to work at first sight. Flavored sake in massive taps ensures that a night of drunken karaoke is not far off. But the first real sign one sees of the Land of the Rising Sun is a trio of actual pachinko machines waiting for you inside the front door. Pachinko is a Japanese cross between pinball and slot machines, usually with blinding lights and video screens playing Japanese animation to distract less-experienced players. Our favorite at Geisha A Go Go is the Hokuto No Ken (or Fist of the North Star) machine, complete with images of hulking Japanese comic characters in a Road Warrior-esque setting. Luckily, the machines are just for show. Pachinko looks fun, but watching your money dissolve thanks to a few misplaced ball bearings is anything but.
Rips Ales & Cocktails
Lauren Cusimano
With that funky geometric sign and off-kilter building structure, you won't expect anything at Rips Ales and Cocktails to be run of the mill. The bar's Sunday-night karaoke is no exception, with hipsters, barflies, and wanna-be pop queens all taking to the mic to belt out renditions of their favorite tunes. The diversity of the singers is matched by the diversity of the tunes, and you're just as likely to hear a soul ballad as a rocker. There's no shortage of places to go to find great karaoke nights in Phoenix, but few that match the unpredictable style of Rips.
Tempe Tavern
Lauren Cusimano
The Zen Lunatics have hosted rockaroke (karaoke with a live rock band, get it?) at Tempe spots like the Yucca Tap Room and The Sail Inn in the past, but the stage at Tempe Tavern may just be the perfect fit for the band. You'd be hardpressed to find a cover band with the chops these guys have, able to back you up on just about any rock 'n' roll standard you can think of, and more than willing to dig into some greasy funk like selections from Ike and Tina Turner or soul balladry from the likes of Stevie Wonder. Potential frontmen or ladies are in good hands with The Zen Lunatics, who are as happy to rock your wedding, corporate party, or youth rally as they are the stage at Tempe Tavern.
Jake's O Mine Saloon
Alcohol has a tendency to stir up emotions, annihilate shyness, and encourage certain risky behavior. Inhibitions start to evaporate while inebriated, leading some folks to consider daring activities they might not otherwise engage in. For example, many a tattoo has been acquired after staggering to a nearby body art parlor after a few (okay, more than a few) snifters of firewater. At Jake's-O-Mine, however, you can forgo the stumble, because they host an actual in-house tattoo artist. Ink-slinger Dan Tapley practices his trade at a tiny studio located inside this Apache Junction dive bar five days a week, from Monday to Friday. Typically, the artist spends most of the time creating skulls, snakes, and American flags on the skin of the place's biker clientele, but he also can whip up some original designs if needed. Despite the joint's grimy décor and badass reputation, Tapley keeps his work area spotless and hygienic and won't needle anyone who seems completely soused. After all, who needs the hassle of being confronted by a patron who suddenly regrets their newly inked tramp stamp?
Swizzle Inn
Lauren Cusimano
Like most good dive barflies, we're not exactly stoked to share our favorite hideout with the masses. But what the heck — we love this place! It's dark, it's grimy (though the ladies room is so clean, it won a Best Of), and it has an atrium. It's the Swizzle Inn. Lurking behind the Starbucks on the southeast corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road sits a little piece of dive bar heaven, where the drinks are always strong and the Christmas light are on 365 days a year. Whether you're in flip-flops, heels, or even your pajamas, everyone's welcome at the Swizzle for cheap drinks and a game of pool. And don't worry if you're short in the, um, friends department — there are plenty of colorful locals to keep you entertained.
Narcisse Champagne Lounge
Did you know Phoenix has a champagne bar? Well, you've been missing out if you didn't. These folks have 200 bottles in stock at all times, they offer tastings, and they serve food and have live music a few nights a month. And the sexy servers make the atmosphere a true Scottsdale good time. Oh, and by day, Narcisse is a tea lounge — so there really is something for everyone.
Seamus McCaffrey's Irish Pub & Restaurant
Jacob Tyler Dunn
These days, being Irish is cooler then cool, which is probably why we have seen more than a few so-called Irish pubs pop up around town. But Seamus (pronounced shay-mus) has been keepin' it real for more than 20 years. Like any good Irish pub, the downtown no-frills joint keeps football (soccer) on the TV and a huge selection of scotch and whiskey behind the bar. We can always find a table, but it's best to belly up to the bar and chat with the locals or the friendly staff. You will find the usual suspects on draft, but when you have an imperial pint of Guinness and a neat shot of 30-year Macallan, we're sure you won't have any complaints.
Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman
It's hard to imagine all the insane things Wesley "Wes" Nieto has seen over the 23 years she's worked at Bikini Lounge, one of downtown's most cherished dives. Naturally, Nieto is one tough lady, never one to mince words, and more than apt to deliver a stinging insult if she finds your drink order less than worthy. But that's all part of her charm — she'll rip you a new one with a smile, then pour you an extra-stiff cocktail to salve the wound. Her two-plus decades at the Bikini dealing with crazies and louts have honed her into the perfect bartending machine, able to crack a joke, kick an ass, or slide a shot down the bar — whatever the moment calls for.
Postino Wine Cafe
The best way to experience Postino is to hoof it, bike it, or cab it before 5 p.m. any day of the week to this wine bar. Every glass of wine in the house is only five bucks, and if you're anti-vino, Postino serves pitchers of beer for the same price. The servers are well versed in the wine list, so let them know whether you like your chardonnays oaked or your reds strong and fruity, and they will steer you in the right direction. And when in doubt, trust "Brett's Pick" on the wine list. He's never steered us wrong. Add a plank of bruschetta and maybe a salted caramel sundae with chocolate-covered corn nuts, and you're nearing perfection. Don't forget about Sangria Sunday!
San Tan Brewing Company
There is no place we would rather be than lively SanTan Brewery. Converted from a bank into a traditional brewpub, SanTan cranks out great handcrafted brews and — as far as brewery food goes — the food is amazing. What really keeps us coming back is the friendly staff; they have mastered the art of customer service, something that is becoming harder and harder to find these days. Whether you're enjoying a beer as you watch the world pass by on the patio or you're stopping in for movie night on Mondays, you will always feel welcome at SanTan, and you might even decide to start calling the brewery home. This place does get pretty packed on Fridays and Saturdays, so plan on standing or making friends with your fellow bar patrons.

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